Alan's Adventure into Grandfather's Past

Issued: Thursday 20th 2017

Alan Bates attended one of Lincs Inspire’s local and family history workshops hoping to trace his grandfather. Armed with only his father’s birth certificate, his grandfather’s army service number and a small clipping from the ‘Official Gazette of the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya’ from October 1945 showing his grandfather’s name and a court case, Alan was eager to see what he could uncover.

The workshops were specially designed for people starting out with their family history research, those who had got stuck, or those simply wanting to find out more about Lincs Inspire Libraries Local History Collection.

The workshop, which Alan attended, was led by Tracey Townsend, Customer Services Assistant at Lincs Inspire Libraries, and after the first session they both had an inkling that they were on the right track. Alan explained: “Tracey found a piece of paper with a death on it in 1999… she just said to me straight away; ‘Don’t lose this piece of paper, because I’ve got a hunch it’s him’ and from day one she was just bang on.”

From the birth and death certificate, Tracey was able to find a will, which led to Alan sending a letter to two people in Gloucester. Two days later Alan received a phone call from them and subsequently arranged to visit. It was here that Alan was given some more information on his grandfather, including his grandfather’s memory cassette tape, and was able to visit his grandfather’s grave with his father.

Alan, who feels it’s been ‘quite an adventure’ is very pleased with what they’ve discovered, he explained: “Thanks to Tracey we have found my grandfather’s grave and also a member of our family that we never knew existed. If it wasn’t for her I would be still be going around in circles and at square one. My father who is 74 years old only saw his father for approximately 45 minutes in the late 50’s, he is over the moon and is so grateful for the help that Tracey gave.”

When asked whether if it’s something he’s wanted to do for a while Alan replied: “I was always been under the impression of; I’ve never known my grandfather, let sleeping dogs lie because you never know what you’re going to unearth! But my father, who as I say, is 74 now, deep down he has always wanted to find out what happened to his father. So I said to myself, okay I’ll investigate and see what we can do, see what we can find and we’ve found a lot, thanks to Tracey, and there seems to be a bit more to come!”

Tracey added: “You never really know how things are going to pan out when you start. From that first meeting we found a couple of interesting documents that you think, well it could possibly be, but until you get the certificates back you don’t know whether you’ve got the right road. So it was just great to see it unfold as it did really and it’s just like unlocking the key to the door!”

Tracey would encourage those interested in their family’s history to visit Grimsby Local History Library. “We’ve got so many resources at our fingertips. We’ve got the internet, we’ve got ancestry, there are local records, there are national indexes, so if you can’t make a decent start here then you might as well start another project!”

“It’s amazing what you find out” said Alan, who described his father as ‘over the moon’ with what he’s discovered is pleased that he’s been able to piece together the puzzle and provide some closure for his father, he added: “The door for him is closed now… that chapter’s closed.”

If, like Alan you want to find out more about your family history, or you’re interested in local history, Lincs Inspire Libraries and Archives will be holding a series of talks and events during May celebrating and highlighting different aspects of history and local heritage in our area.

There will be a unique opportunity to view rare local history and archive resources held in the Library and Archive Collections in Grimsby and to talk to the Archives conservator Peter Noon about the items on display on Wednesday 10th May from 10am to 2pm. The drop in event is free of charge and a chance to view the treasures held in the archive and local history library.

The aim of Local and Community History Month is to increase awareness of local history, promote history in general to the local community and encourage all members of the community to participate. Find out more about the events we have planned here. 

If you’d like to find out more about the Grimsby Local History Library, simply pop in or call (01472) 323635.